Navy JROTC cut from Henry Co. schools

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

HENRY COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Tuesday, Henry County voters went to the polls for two special taxes that affected the school system. Now, the repurcussions.

While the renewal of the existing tax passed, the 3 mil tax that would help fund the Navy Junior ROTC program failed.

And for Instructor Major Danny Odom, it's the beginning of the end.

He was, himself, a member of the first class of Navy JROTC at the school.

He said, "It's not my joy to be the one that closes it."

But, after yesterday's tax failed, the school says they'll be forced to cut the 38-year-old program, due to a lack in funding.

While it's a heartbreaking loss for both students and teachers, school administrators knew it would be difficult to pass a tax in an already financially strapped county.

Henry County School Superintendent Dennis Coe said, "When people hear the words 'new tax', they cringe."

Many residents proudly displayed "Vote Yes' signs in their yards, others let their voices be heard through the local newspapers.

In an article in the Abbeville Herald, just a page away from a 'Vote Yes' ad, one citizen wrote, "We need to vote NO to the proposed tax to send a strong message to the school that we need to stop our wasteful spending, and fund the ROTC programs with money that already exists in the school board budget."

But Coe says that really isn't possible.  He said, "Due to the proration announcement from the governor,  that will take effect [Thursday], we're going to be facing additional cuts."

And even though it has been a tough day for the ROTC students, says Major Odom, complete with tears and long faces, he says, this isn't the end.  They'll keep fighting for funding through different avenues.

The program will remain until the end of the school year, but because of new rules from the National ROTC program, it won't be able to return unless the school system has more than 1,000 students.  Something that's not expected for many years in this school system.